Stories behind workshop plans, post-its and markers.

Creative games and exercises to spur creativity in the workplace

creative games for work

Think that only traditionally creative roles like artist, designer, and writer benefit from using creativity in the workplace? Think again! Innovation, growth, and change are powered by creative thinkers throughout an organization, whatever their role. Using creative games, creativity exercises, and brainstorming can help you shift perspectives, try new things, become more open-minded, and free any creative blocks too!

If you’re feeling a lack of creativity in the workplace or want to find new ways of thinking creatively as a team, the creative activities and group exercises below are a great way to jumpstart your creative process while also having fun and building better team connections. 

It’s so easy to get bogged down in the stress and admin of your job and lose sight of how you might do things differently or find joy in the tasks you complete or the company you share at work. We’ve put together this collection of creative games in the hope they help you and your team find ways to be more creative!

Let’s dive in! 

Why is creativity in the workplace important? 

Finding space to introduce more creativity into the workplace yields benefits for both organizations and individuals. Not only can it improve outcomes and create innovation, but it can help managers and employees communicate more effectively and improve job satisfaction too. 

Remember that creativity is not the sole preserve of more traditionally creative roles like designer or writer. Being a more creative problem solver and able to bring a creative approach into your day-to-day work is vital for everyone – whether you are a developer, support agent, manager, or something else entirely! 

It’s worth mentioning that creative thinking and creativity in general doesn’t just mean being able to draw, paint or write. Being a creative thinker means being able to see things from different perspectives and try new and creative approaches to solving problems, generating ideas and working with others. You can apply a creative approach to most tasks, challenges and roles and see better outcomes as a result. 

Interested in seeing ways to improve your creative thinking skills and see examples of how creative thinking has helped us solve challenges? Check out our collection of 19 creative thinking skills and how to use them

In the following sections, we’ll explore creative games and creativity exercises you can use when generating new ideas, breaking the ice or warming up a group, and many more workplace scenarios. By using these creative thinking techniques and methods as a team, you can find more creative solutions and have fun too. Let’s get started!

Creative games for getting to know others

Breaking the ice in a team meeting with creative games or approaches is a great way of enabling a group to bring themselves more fully to the meeting while also having fun. Kicking things off creatively is also a great way to warm everyone up and pave the way for further creativity, whether you’re trying to find new solutions, solve problems or effectively collaborate.

Try some of these creative games for getting to know each other the next time you bring a team together and let us know how they went in the comments!

3 Question Mingle

Being creative often means finding ways to express your interests openly and clearly. When first getting to know others, finding ways to bring yourself more fully into the conversation can help break down barriers while also improving communication and understanding. 

With 3 Question Mingle, participants are invited to create three questions they would like to ask other members of a group. Invite them to be as creative, thoughtful, and curious as they would like. By creating space for more self-initiated and personalized communication, participants can take ownership of the getting to know you process while being creative.  

3 Question Mingle #hyperisland #team #get-to-know 

An activity to support a group to get to know each other through a set of questions that they create themselves. The activity gets participants moving around and meeting each other one-on-one. It’s useful in the early stages of team development and/or for groups to reconnect with each other after a period of time apart.

The Time Machine 

For some groups, traditional ways of getting to know each other can be awkward or forced. Avoid these potential stumbling blocks by inviting a group to be creative in their initial exchanges with an activity like The Time Machine. 

In this creative game, ask participants to share where they would like to time travel to, who they might like to meet and whether they would just want to visit or stay. By using a clear framework with scope for creativity, you can enable a group to communicate easily while also bringing themselves into the conversation. 

The Time Machine #get-to-know #ice breaker #remote-friendly 

Encourage creative thinking and getting to know each other better with a short round of ‘time travel’ questions to each of your participants.

Doodling Together

Drawing, collaboration, and creativity go hand-in-hand. In this creativity exercise, invite the group to first draw a shape on a postcard or piece of paper before then passing it on. The next person then makes a person, animal or object from the shape before passing it on again. After several rounds of iteration, the postcard grows collaboratively from a single shape into a finished product. The results of this game are often amusing, varied and creative, and it’s a great way to help a group connect and build creative confidence too! 

Doodling Together #collaboration #creativity #teamwork #fun #team #visual methods #energiser #ice breaker #remote-friendly 

Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.

Magic Box

Sharing something of ourselves within a safe, supportive framework can be transformative when it comes to getting to know others. Magic Box is a creative game that is especially good for groups that might contain introverts as well as extroverts. Start by creating a box full of objects (virtual works fine too!) and invite a group to pick an object from the box without thinking too much about it. Next, each person shares with the group who they are, why they’ve chosen the object and what they think the connection between the object and the workshop might be. 

Finding ways for everyone in a group to contribute safely and also bring some of their personality into the workshop space can be hugely generative at the start of a creative process. Give it a go!  

Magic Box #team #ice breaker #get-to-know #teambuilding #remote-friendly 

Ice breaking at the beginning of the workshop/meeting

Quotes 

Looking to others for inspiration is a key aspect of thinking creatively. This creative icebreaker helps a group tap into existing wisdom while also helping them get to know one another. 

Start by assembling a collection of quotations prior to a session and inviting each member of the group to select a quote from the pile. Participants then pair up and discuss what the quote means to them, whether it is meaningful and what thoughts it brings up. Having a ready-made talking point not only makes the getting to know you process easier but it also creates a framework for deeper and more creative thinking.  

Quotes #ice breaker #energiser #online #warm up 

For participants to get acquainted with each other in a meaningful way

Break the Ice with The Four Quadrants Activity

Creative exercises often work best with a simple, easy to follow framework that allows for self-expression. This icebreaker activity is a proven way to help a team get acquainted and spur creativity too! 

Start by having participants divide a piece of paper or online canvas into four sections. Ask the group to then draw a response to four questions in each section without using text. By having to draw an answer to each question and then invite the group to interpret and debrief together, this activity helps promote visual thinking and self expression too!

Break the Ice with The Four Quadrants Activity #team #icebreaker #get-to-know #teambuilding 

The Four Quadrants is a tried and true team building activity to break the ice with a group or team.

It is EASY to prep for and set up. It can be MODIFIED to work with any group and/or topic (just change the questions). It is FUN, COLORFUL and VISUAL.

Build a Shake

Combining creativity with physical activity is a great way to get to know people. Not only is it engaging and fun, but it promotes a different approach than visual or written responses that can work well for certain groups. In this creative game, have the group break out into pairs and create a two-step handshake – encourage them to be as wild and creative as they like. 

Once everyone has practiced, have everyone find a new partner and decide which shake to add additional steps to. Socially distancing or working remotely? Try creating a sequence of hand signals instead. Having rules or restrictions in place can actually create more creative responses! 

Build-a-Shake #teampedia #energiser #get-to-know #opening #team 

How to introduce yourself in a fun, creative way? Build a handshake!

Creative games for generating new ideas

One of the most common forms of using creativity at work is when it comes to brainstorming and finding new ideas. Whether it’s using games that draw on traditional creative skills like drawing, exercises that challenge you to think outside the box, or simply creating space for fast ideation, these creative exercises are a great way to kickstart any brainstorming session. What’s more, you’ll find that engaging with creative exercises can help everyone apply more creative approaches elsewhere after the session. Let’s take a look!

Bad Idea Brainstorm

What better way to start a section on creative brainstorming than with a creativity exercise that turns the process on its head? With Bad Idea Brainstorm, start by writing the problem you are trying to solve on a post-it or inside a virtual whiteboard. Then, invite the group to come up with the worst possible ways to handle the problem. 

Afterwards, share and reflect before trying to remix or reverse some of the bad ideas into good ones. By approaching the challenge in this way, you can fire-up a group’s creative muscles and generate some laughter too!  

Bad Idea Brainstorm #brainstorming #creative thinking #idea generation 

Name all the bad ideas to make room for good ones. Coming up with the perfect solution right off the bat can feel paralyzing. So instead of trying to find the right answer, get unstuck by listing all the wrong ones.

The Paper Clip Method

Creative games that challenge a group to think of new and alternative uses for existing items can be an effective way to catalyse creative thinking. With The Paper Clip method, task participants come up with as many different uses for the humble paper clip as they can in a short amount of time. This creativity exercise is a great warm-up before a more focused brainstorming activity but can also be used as a standalone exercise to show the value of quick ideation and alternative thinking – all hallmarks of creativity! 

The paper clip method #sharing #idea generation #creativity #warm up 

The power of brainstorming. A training for project leaders, creativity training, and to catalyse getting new solutions.

Apple Drawing Ideation 

Part of promoting creativity in the workplace is acknowledging that different approaches work for different people. For a more relaxed, image-based variation on some of the concepts of The Paper Clip method, why not try this creative drawing exercise?

In Apple Drawing Ideation, task participants split into groups and take it in turns to fill a grid with 30 different pictures of apples. By mindfully reflecting on the process, you can highlight some key creative thinking concepts: that quantity is a condition for quality; building on the ideas of others is necessary and useful; the ideas we come up with are often similar. 

Apple-Drawing Ideation #hyperisland #innovation #idea generation 

The purpose of this simple exercise is to demonstrate three key principles useful for creativity and idea generation: quantity is a condition for quality; building on the ideas of others; the ideas we come up with are usually all the same. The format is simple, with small groups standing and drawing apples. At the end of the exercise, the whole group reflects and draws out learnings and reflections.

One Word Method

Simplicity is often a key element of starting people on the path towards being more creative at work. By removing the pressure or barriers to entry, creative games like One Word Method are great for enabling a group of people to engage creatively.

Start by posing a central topic or challenge and ask the first person in the group to respond to the topic with just one word. The next person then adds a second word with the goal of forming a sentence. Not only can this game be a fun, creative warm-up, it can also help a group stretch some key creative muscles and see how important effective collaboration is to any process.

One Word Method #product development #idea generation #creativity #ice breaker #online #warm up 

Creating a sentence relating to a specific topic or problem with each person contributing one word at a time.

Mash Up Innovation

Some of the best ideas come from combining unlikely elements. In this creative activity, tap into the potential of unexpected combinations and rapid ideation for fun and creative results! Begin by asking the group to brainstorm on three different areas such as technologies, needs, existing services and add all the ideas to a whiteboard. Next, have everyone combine two of the ideas to form a new concept at speed. 

By combining ideas in this way, exciting and unexpected new concepts can be born very quickly and creatively. Be sure to debrief afterwards so you can help cement the learnings of this creative game into something the group can carry forward into future projects!

Mash-Up Innovation #hyperisland #innovation #idea generation 

Mash-ups is a collaborative idea generation method in which participants come up with innovative concepts by combining different elements together. In a first step, participants brainstorm around different areas, such as technologies, human needs, and existing services. In a second step, they rapidly combine elements from those areas to create new, fun and innovative concepts. Mash-ups demonstrates how fast and easy it can be to come up with innovative ideas.

Cover Story

Speculating about what the future might hold and combining words and images are two classic methods of creative expression. With this creative game, invite your group to tap into this fertile creative ground by first imagining an expansive and ideal future state for your organisation. Next, split into sub teams that each create a cover page for a magazine based on your achieving this future state, complete with quotes, images and a headline too! By running this exercise with multiple groups you can not only share different perspectives but find common ground and places for further creative exploration!

Cover Story #gamestorming #idea generation #organizational development #vision #strategy 

Cover Story is a game about pure imagination. The purpose is to think expansively around an ideal future state for the organization; it’s an exercise in visioning. The object of the game is to suspend all disbelief and envision a future state that is so stellar that it landed your organization on the cover of a well-known magazine

Walking Brainstorm

High intensity creative games can be an effective way to find new perspectives and generate lots of ideas, but they’re not for everyone! Finding time and space for reflection, observation and a quieter approach to building on one another’s ideas is an alternative approach that really works. 

Start by creating a large live or virtual space for people to place their ideas and invite them to silently brainstorm responses to a central challenge or topic. Next, invite each team member to walk around the room or virtual space and add additional ideas, responses or post-its to everyone else’s sections. Remember to use a “yes, and” approach to help people try and build on ideas, rather than point out weakness and you’ll help create a reflective, generative atmosphere for ideation!     

Walking Brainstorm #brainstorming #idea generation #remote-friendly 

This introvert-friendly brainstorming technique helps groups of any size to generate and build on each other’s ideas in a silent but dynamic setting. As the participants keep moving, the exercise is ideal to kick-off a full day workshop or re-energize the group after lunch.

Exercises to support creativity at work

Creativity without direction or support can sometimes lead to ineffective outcomes. While it’s important to be creatively free at work, particularly during the early brainstorming stages, it’s also worth acknowledging that being creative alone is not enough. These exercises and activities can help support creativity through fast, effective research, task management, and more.

Rapid Research

Maintaining creative energy while also sourcing alternative viewpoints and gathering research can be a tricky balance to maintain. Rapid Research is a simple exercise that invites group members to quickly contact a co worker or other party outside of the workshop and solicit input on a creative problem, challenge or product they are working on. Not only can this input be surprisingly useful but doing so in this format means the group can see the benefit of sourcing opinions quickly and without breaking creative flow.

Rapid Research #hyperisland #innovation #idea generation 

A simple exercise that complements exploratory, discursive, and creative workshops with insights and opinions from outside. Use this exercise when brainstorming ideas, developing a new product or service or creating a strategy or plan that will include others. Participants phone a co-worker and ask them questions relevant to the task. This quickly generates meaningful input from a range of “outside” perspectives. Often, participants will be surprised at how simple it was to solicit this input and how valuable it is to the process.

Lightning Demos

Looking to others for inspiration is a great way of supercharging your creativity and most of the challenges you and your organisation face will not be unique. By looking to see how other individuals and teams have solved similar difficulties, you can explore ways of thinking which may not have occurred to you and use the research to creatively inform how you approach problem solving. Lightning Demos adds the additional wrinkle of presenting inspirations in a timeboxed fashion, asking you to both critically and creatively present what you have learned.   

Lightning Demos #design sprint #innovation #idea generation 

This is an exercise to inspire your team with products or services that they think they can use as inspiration for their concepts in the next phases of their design sprints.

Stakeholder Round Robin Brainstorm

When in full creative swing, it can be easy to lose sight of opinions and experiences outside of your own. Any creative process can benefit from the insight and knowledge of other groups, particularly if the solution or challenges touches many departments or disciplines. 

With this activity, create a separate flipchart for each different stakeholder perspective and invite someone from that group to brainstorm responses to your central question. Rotate between flipcharts to help a group understand a problem from the perspective of others before then inviting them to build on those ideas. The end result is a growth in understanding and a multifaceted response to the challenge you face – great for improving creativity in the workplace! 

Stakeholder Round Robin Brainstorm #idea generation #brainstorming #perspectives #remote-friendly #online 

A divergent process to generate ideas and understanding from different perspectives.

Simple Ethnography 

First-hand experience is always valuable when trying to creatively solve any problem or challenge. If you or your group is lacking perspective or needs additional user feedback in order to move forward with a project, this activity is a great way to support the process. 

Start by inviting your group to immerse themselves in the company of those with experiences relevant to the challenge being faced. Ask your group to observe and interact with your target group using the simple ethnography framework and collect their findings. By gaining insights and debriefing on what was learned, your group can better inform any project or creative process with quality data and learnings. 

Simple Ethnography #innovation #issue analysis #liberating structures 

You can enable participants to find novel approaches to challenges by immersing themselves in the activities of the people with local experience—often their colleagues on the front line or anyone who uses their product or service. You open the door to change and innovation by helping participants explore what people actually do and feel in creating, delivering, or using their offering. Their observations and experience can spur rapid performance improvements and expedite prototype development. The combined observations may make it easy to spot important patterns.

Walking Questions 

All teams are a bastion of knowledge and insight that doesn’t always surface. Some workshop formats, working practices or personality types aren’t great conditions for everyone and so finding a low-impact way to share knowledge and best practices can help everyone contribute and share knowledge in a way that works for them. 

In this exercise, have each person write a question they would like answered on the top of a sheet of paper. Pass this to the next person, who writes an answer to the question alongside their name. By passing these papers between the group, you can crowdsource different opinions and skill sets on a problem swiftly and effectively, with scope for followup if necessary. A great way to kick-off a creative process on the right foot! 

Walking questions #what if learning style #idea generation #learning 

This is a great facilitation technique to answer open questions of trainees with a “What if” learning style. It prevents the facilitator from answering all questions herself. With this method trainees can: 

  • close knowledge gaps
  • find solutions for personal problems
  • imagine themselves using their new knowledge in future and prepare themselves for obstacles

I Notice, I Wonder

Sometimes the best thing you can do to help solve a creative challenge is to give it some space and take time to reflect in a new setting. With this exercise, participants are invited to go to a busy place that resonates with the design challenge and sit quietly for thirty minutes and observe. They then write down those things that stick out as things they notice and then add a thought or curiosity that comes up too. By closely observing others and reflecting on what stood out and what curiosites this raised, your group can then bring any learnings back to their practice and find further places for investigation. 

I notice, I wonder #design #observation #empathy #issue analysis 

Learn through careful observation.

Observation and intuition are critical design tools. This exercise helps you leverage both. Find clues about the context you’re designing for that may be hidden in plain sight.

Creative activities to improve team connections

As children, we’re often invited to work on creative things in an effort to connect with others, share an experience and grow. This is no different for adults! Coming together around a creative premise or with an activity designed to help us think creatively is a great way to improve teamwork and help build a sense of togetherness. Try these creative activities to help a group think more creatively and communicate more effectively too! 

Open Questions Role Play

Active listening and effective communication are both key creative thinking skills, and role-playing games such as this one are highly effective in promoting these skills. In Open Questions Role Play, a group is invited to ask open questions based that must contain a word from the previous response.

For example, if the volunteer’s first comment was that they saw a squirrel on the way to the workshops, the next question must reference the squirrel but also be open in nature. By following this game through multiple rounds, participants not only learn to creatively respond to what is being said, but must also learn to better listen and think about how they are communicating with others.  

Open Questions – Role Play #communication #skills #active listening 

An extract from Rudyard Kipling’s poem in “The Elephant’s Child” literally OPENS up opportunities to practice a key skill as part of a communication skills course as well as allied skills in active listening and observation.

Blind Drawing

Being able to effectively articulate what we’re thinking while also being able to interpret what others are saying is a crucial skill for effective communication and when collaborating creatively with others. In this creative activity, one person in a pair or small group must describe an object without revealing what it is.

For example, they might describe a tree but aim not to directly give away that it is a tree. The rest of the group must interpret what is being said and draw what they think it is. Not only can this creative game be fun and challenging but it can help impart the importance of clear, effective communication when collaborating, particularly on creative projects!  

Blind Drawing #teambuilding #communication #creative thinking #remote-friendly 

Test your communication and interpretation skills with Blind Drawing!

Paper Telephone

A great team activity based on a classic party game, Paper Telephone is a fun, effective creative game that generates laughs as well as creativity. Start by having each participant sit in a circle and write a sentence on a piece of paper. They then pass the paper to the next person who has to create a visual representation of the sentence. This image is then passed on to the next person who has to write a new sentence based on the image. Repeat until the stack of images and sentences returns to the original writer and share the results. 

You’ll find the results of this creative game often vary wildly from the original source and spur laughter while also demonstrating the importance of clarity, creativity and different ways of thinking. 

Paper Telephone #teampedia #ice breaker #creativity #team #action 

Paper Telephone is a mix of two methods, “Telephone” and “Pictionary”. It is a creative game aiming to fasten the get-to-know each other phase of the team while having a good time.

Nine Whys

Our first response to a question isn’t always the best one. Being asked to further clarify, add depth or respond further can bring up more creative, useful responses and bring us closer to more impactful learnings. From another perspective, learning to listen to what has been said and ask further questions in a way that is mutually useful is another important creative skill. 

With this creative communication game, you can do both! Invite a group to start with a simple question and ask why questions again and again until the deepest, most fundamental point of the topic is reached. You’ll be surprised by how much deeper a conversation can go with the right approach and how much information might otherwise stay buried!  

Nine Whys #innovation #issue analysis #liberating structures 

With breathtaking simplicity, you can rapidly clarify for individuals and a group what is essentially important in their work. You can quickly reveal when a compelling purpose is missing in a gathering and avoid moving forward without clarity. When a group discovers an unambiguous shared purpose, more freedom and more responsibility are unleashed. You have laid the foundation for spreading and scaling innovations with fidelity.

Marshmallow Challenge

Team games that invite creative solutions are great for bringing a group together in a common purpose while also inspiring new ways of thinking. If the activity also happens to be fun, even better!

Marshmallow Challenge is a creative game for small groups that challenges teams to build the tallest freestanding structure they can with a limited assortment of materials. By being asked to come up with a creative solution and explore them as a team, your groups will need to exercise many key creative skills in a short period of time – great for improving creative thinking and team building too! 

Marshmallow Challenge #hyperisland #team 

A team-building activity in which teams must compete to build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, collaboration, innovation and problem solving strategy. The Marshmallow Challenge was developed by Tom Wujec, who has done the activity with hundreds of groups around the world. Visit the Marshmallow Challenge website for more information.

Who Are You? The Pirate Ship Exercise

Reflecting on our roles within a team through a creative lens can be an especially engaging way to improve group dynamics. Our idea of who we are and how we fit within a team might not match with how other people see us. With this creative exercise, ask your participants to look at the image of the pirate ship and explain who they believe they are on the boat and why. By defining ourselves within a creative context, we can consider our roles from a new perspective and reflect more openly on what we bring to a team currently and what more we could do in the future.

Who are you? The pirate ship exercise (dinámica del barco pirata) #team alignment #team #remote-friendly #teamwork #warm up #icebreaker 

This an easy but powerful exercise to open a meeting or session and get participants to reflect on their attitudes or feelings about a topic, in the organization, team, or in the project.

Lego Challenge

Complex projects with lots of moving parts and stakeholders from different departments benefit massively from creative thinking. Balancing individual and group needs with those of a larger organisation is often a difficult act to get right. With Lego Challenge, small groups are tasked with co-creating a structure as a team while also aiming to fulfill a secret assignment known only to them. This activity is great for helping a group learn how to balance needs more effectively while finding creative solutions in a collaborative space. Also, it has Lego! 

LEGO Challenge #hyperisland #team 

A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.

Telling Our Stories

Whether it’s to a group of friends at work, or to our families around the dinner table, storytelling is a creative skill that most of us use every day. Leverage this natural inclination to tell stories with this creative technique in order to build trust, promote openness and help everyone in a group bring themselves into work. 

Start by asking participants to individually answer questions relating to childhood, young adulthood and now before turning them into a story to share with the group. Thinking creatively about how to create a narrative from the raw material of our lives and present it to a group can be emotionally gratifying while also helping bring a group together. 

Telling Our Stories #hyperisland #team #teambuilding 

To work effectively together team members need to build relations, show trust, and be open with each other. This method supports those things through a process of structured storytelling. Team members answer questions related to their childhood, young adulthood, and now; then weave them into a story to share with the rest of their team.

Creative exercises for radical planning

A common misconception of planning and organization is that it is a purely administrative process with no scope or need for creative thinking. When it comes to balancing budgets, planning with agile or lean thinking methodologies, being a creative thinker who can explore alternatives while still seeing the bigger picture can help create faster, more successful outcomes. Radical planning is a means to reconsider how you might approach your work and is a great way of bringing creativity meaningfully into your day-to-day working practices. 

15% Solutions 

One of the major benefits of radical planning is being free to find quick, easy-to-implement solutions and try them out. Making immediate changes in a small, test environment can help generate solutions, save time and empower a group to make an impact. 

15% Solutions is a creative exercise that invites a team to reconsider where they can make an impact at their own discretion and without needing too many additional resources. By discovering where they might be able to find an extra 15% and create bottom-up solutions, you can really help a group bring creative thinking into their work.

15% Solutions #action #liberating structures #remote-friendly 

You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference. 

15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change. 

With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

Backcasting

A simple and effective way to reframe the planning process is by starting not from the beginning state but instead, working backwards from the desired goal. We can often find it difficult to know where to begin when planning complex projects, particularly if the end result is ill-defined. 

With this creative thinking activity, a simple reorganization of the normal planning process helps your team see a process more clearly and think methodically about all the steps involved and how best to achieve them. Try this creative planning method if you’re finding more traditional approaches leave you stuck or you think your team is getting lost along the way! 

Backcasting #define intentions #create #design #action 

Backcasting is a method for planning the actions necessary to reach desired future goals. This method is often applied in a workshop format with stakeholders participating.

To be used when a future goal (even if it is vague) has been identified.

Future Mapping

Effectively imagining the future often means successfully analyzing trends past and present, and identifying patterns that might inform any creative planning process. Future Mapping is a great method for supporting creative thinking and can help develop a shared understanding among the group too. 

Start by asking participants to review key trends from last year and this year ahead of forecasting trends and patterns for three years into the future. By then reflecting both as groups and individuals, your team can identify what patterns and trends might be most important both personally and professionally in the future and then build creative strategies and plan around them too. 

Future Mapping #hyperisland #innovation 

The purpose of Future Map is to create a shared view of industry trends in the recent past, present, and future. In the workshop, participants map key trends from the past year, the current year, and three years ahead. They then review the map, identify patterns and discuss the relevance of different trends. It is useful for supporting discussion and debate around high-level themes: society, technology, politics, etc.

Gap Analysis

Effective planning is often about correctly identifying what can help you reach a desired goal and assigning tasks to help your team reach that goal. With this creative thinking technique, your team will explicitly consider the gap between your desired future state and current position and brainstorm all the things that contribute to creating the gap between your current and desired positions.

By reframing the process to focus first on what the potential gaps might be before then figuring out how to resolve each of them, your team can proactively move towards the desired state and plan more effectively.  

Gap Analysis #project planning #reflection #planning ##project review ##problem solving #online 

Determine the gap between the present situation and a desired future state

Making Space with TRIZ

Some planning processes can be hampered by what we might assume is the right way to proceed. When organizations develop tried and tested ways of working, habits that might actually harm creativity or the efficacy of the project can emerge.

Making Space with TRIZ is a creative thinking activity that empowers a group to challenge accepted ways of doing things and create space to come up with new, better ways of working. Start by asking a group to consider what we must do in order to achieve a terrible result can surface problematic items that can then be challenged and turned into more productive methods.

This kind of creative reframing or your working processes can be instrumental in helping a team plan more effectively and also create an effective space to challenge norms and solve deeper organizational problems.

Making Space with TRIZ #issue analysis #liberating structures #issue resolution 

You can clear space for innovation by helping a group let go of what it knows (but rarely admits) limits its success and by inviting creative destruction. TRIZ makes it possible to challenge sacred cows safely and encourages heretical thinking. The question “What must we stop doing to make progress on our deepest purpose?” induces seriously fun yet very courageous conversations. Since laughter often erupts, issues that are otherwise taboo get a chance to be aired and confronted. With creative destruction come opportunities for renewal as local action and innovation rush in to fill the vacuum. Whoosh!

Creativity exercises to promote reframing and metaphorical thinking

Approaching problem solving or ideation in a new way or from a fresh perspective is a hallmark creative skill. It’s not always easy to bring this kind of creative thinking into the workplace, and so creative games that can help us tap into metaphorical or perspective-shifting frames of mind can be especially helpful.

By helping us change our approach or perspective, these activities can pave the way for innovation and help us reconsider problems or situations effectively. Let’s take a look! 

Flip It

Most creative games and creativity exercises aim to help change our perspectives or find new ways of thinking subtly or by gently guiding us in the right direction. With Flip It, why not try using this approach obviously and directly? 

Start by writing down concerns and ideas relating to fear before then reversing each of the statements into a hopeful statement. This simple flipping approach can help your group see how a shift in perspective can be transformative when approaching a problem solving process and thinking about the future. 

Flip It! #gamestorming #problem solving #action 

Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.

Forced Analogy

Placing one object, idea or person in the context of another can be a great way to inspire creative thinking and help people reconsider things they might take for granted. In this creative game, have people quickly find an object of their own or choose from a collection of objects matching a description like, “something blue” or “something that makes you happy.” 

Once everyone has their object, challenge them to articulate how their object might correspond with their feelings on a subject, problem, themselves or another subject. You can even go further by inviting more metaphoric thinking and asking further questions – if for example, this hairbrush is the company and you are a bristle then what is the handle? The results are often fun, illuminating and can help prime a group for further creative activities. 

Forced Analogy #divergent thinking #zoom #virtual #remote-friendly 

People compare something (e.g. themselves, their company, their team) to an object.  

The Thing from the Future

Creating tangible, physical objects as part of a group process can turn a run-of-the-mill workshop into something fun, memorable, and creatively engaging. With this creative activity, first present a selection of objects and invite the group to imagine them as objects that have time-traveled from the future.

Have each person select an object, consider what it might do, and then improve it with craft materials available on the table. When the objects are complete, each person presents their prototype to the group and considers how it might help the team reach an ideal future state. 

As a creative game that encourages physical creation and abstract thinking, this is a great way to galvanize a group and engage them in ways that might not often happen in regular work! 

The Thing from the Future #imagination #storymaking #idea generation #issue analysis 

Help a group to time-travel and tap their imagination by fictional objects.
With tangible objects and the stories your participants make up w/ them you’ll get so much richer inputs and context to inform joint visioning / strategizing:
The future doesn’t look that far away when you can pick it off the shelf.

Make it Personal

Connecting with an idea, product or service on a personal level isn’t just a creative way of thinking – it can help improve connections with team members too and job satisfaction too. This creative thinking game tasks a group to create a persona for the product, idea or experience and build a dating profile to match.

By creatively considering how we might present and discuss a product if they were a person, we can highlight strengths, weaknesses, and attractive qualities that can help us reconsider what we’re working on. Bonus points for writing a quippy Tinder bio to go with the personal ad! 

Make it personal #creative thinking #creativity #idea generation #ideation 

Build personas of ideas, products or experiences.

Imagine your product is a person. What’s its name? What would its ideal date night be? Does it prefer the beach or the woods? This exercise is a playful way to nail down the essence of your idea, product, or service. Use it in ideation or as a way to hone an existing concept.

Speed Boat

It can be easy to get carried away with good ideas or feel held back by seemingly massive problems. Recontextualising what is helping a group move forward alongside what might be holding it back can really help a team make purposeful progress. 

Speed Boat is a creative thinking activity that asks participants to imagine that their product or organization is a boat and that there are elements pushing the boat forward (the engine), as well as some pulling it back (anchors). Brainstorming these elements in a new context can help new perspectives surface, and gathering them together can help foster shared understanding. Follow up with dot voting and reflection to really cement the learnings and collectively decide on future actions too.

Speed Boat #gamestorming #problem solving #action 

Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.

Distance Makes the Brain Grow Stronger

Have you ever noticed how it’s often easy to give someone else advice, while trying to give yourself advice feels difficult? Using a creative game to shift your perspective and tap into this element can make all the difference when trying to solve problems, particularly those that relate to you personally. 

In this creative activity, share the two handouts among the group equally and tell everyone to work on the handout individually and solve the problem as quickly as possible. (At this stage, everyone will assume they have the same handout!) Then, debrief the activity by noting that the solution is the same on the two different handouts, the only difference is whether the reader is involved or not.

Using this technique as a basis to discuss how psychological distance can help us solve problems creatively and with a measure of abstract thinking is then something your group can take forward in the future!

Distance Makes The Brain Grow Stronger #creativity #problem solving #thiagi #action 

This interesting exercise replicates research done by Evan Polman of New York University and Kyle Emich of Cornell University on construal level theory. You can find more information about this theory by visiting this page in Psychlopedia: http://www.psych-it.com.au/Psychlopedia/article.asp?id=79 The participants work with two different versions of the same problem. One version describes a problem faced by someone else while the other version identifies the problem confronting the reader. The debriefing suggests that it is easier to come up with creative solutions when people are thinking for someone other than themselves.

Rules and frameworks to spark and guide creativity 

One misconception about creativity is that it best functions when we are given complete freedom. Often, it can be creatively energizing to be given a framework or ruleset to work with and around, rather than being given free reign. Think of how hard it can be to approach a blank piece of paper, rather than responding to a prompt or question.

These creative techniques tap into the idea of using frameworks and rules to help shape and inform a creative process. They can be especially useful if you’re helping a group start to use creative thinking at work and they’re uncertain about how to begin.

Brainstorm Questions Instead of Solutions

Some of the best creative games and activities are based around the implementation of a simple rule in order to guide a group’s creative thinking. Something as simple as having a rule to brainstorm questions relating to a problem before coming up with any potential solutions can help promote creative thinking. 

With this creative thinking game, invite your group to work with questions instead of solutions and initially reserve judgement on those questions. Once you’ve had a round of brainstorming, then invite your group to reflect on which questions prompt further ideas and potential solutions and follow those further. By approaching the creative brainstorming process with a simple caveat, you’ll find the results are quite different and generative too!

Brainstorm questions instead of solutions #questions and answers #brainstorming 

When we are given a problem our reflex is to find answers. But it can be difficult to leave the comfort zone and to come up with creative answers. This exercise will encourage to think out of the box.

Min Specs

Want to develop an even more effective set of creative rules? Why not have a group create their own framework and identify only what they need to move forward? With Min Specs, first have a group brainstorm all the do’s and don’ts of approaching and completing a current challenge, project or initiative. Next, ask your team to reduce the list to the bare minimum you need in order to achieve your goal. 

The result is a list of minimum specs you can use as a framework for moving forward swiftly, effectively and in a way the group have all agreed on. Applying this can remove roadblocks, push a team forward and help inform creative projects – all with a self directed list you can amend and update in the future.   

Min Specs #innovation #issue analysis #liberating structures 

By specifying only the minimum number of simple rules, the Min Specs that must ABSOLUTELY be respected, you can unleash a group to innovate freely. Respecting the Min Specs will ensure that innovations will be both purposeful and responsible.

Like the Ten Commandments, Min Specs are enabling constraints: they detail only must dos and must not dos. You will eliminate the clutter of non-essential rules, the Max Specs that get in the way of innovation. Often two to five Min Specs are sufficient to boost performance by adding more freedom AND more responsibility to the group’s understanding of what it must do to make progress. Out of their experience in the field, participants shape and adapt Min Specs together, working as one. Following the rules makes it possible for the group to go wild!

The Creativity Dice

Inviting elements of chance into a creative space is a common artistic practice. With this creative game based on rolling a dice to dictate your approach to a problem, you can actively pursue one line of thought while incubating another. 

Start by writing down a short phrase that encapsulates the target of your creative thinking or a problem you wish to work on. Next, roll a dice and spend 3 minutes on an activity based on the result. This might be writing a specification, investigating further, ideating or something else entirely. By moving quickly between tasks, you’ll find that one thought is left hanging and given time to develop while considering another thought. The results can be surprising and by having a ruleset to follow, your group can avoid getting stuck on deciding on an approach.

The Creativity Dice #creativity #problem solving #thiagi #issue analysis 

Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

Six Words

Ernest Hemingway’s six-word short story – “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” is famous for its ability to cram so much meaning and feeling into an incredibly small space. This creative game invites a group to do the same by trying to encapsulate their ideas or thoughts on a subject into a six-word sentence.

By needing to be succinct and clear while cutting away fluff, the six-word sentence can help reveal and refine the core of an idea. We love creative activities that ask a group to think both creatively and critically and deploy some deeper thinking. This is a simple-to-understand framework you and your team can use again and again!

6 Words #ufmcs #red teaming 

This tool is designed to help critical thinkers focus on a core idea by writing a short phrase summarizing their thoughts into a set number of words that are clear, concise, and accurate. This idea is based on a complete short story written by Ernest Hemingway: “For sale, baby shoes – never worn.” Six Words forces people to synthesize their ideas in a succinct and meaningful way, cutting away fluff and distilling the idea to its bare essence.

Idea & Concept Development

Free ideation and brainstorming can be great when starting a creative process but without further direction or refinement, those ideas can get lost in development hell. This creative thinking framework from Hyper Island is a means to not only start generating ideas, but to iterate, develop and select the best.

If your team needs a little direction or you find that you get stuck in the post-ideation phase, this method is a great way of guiding a project to completion. Want the short version? Check out the ideation tools section for a set of alternative ways of thinking you can use to bring creative ideas to the fore!

Idea & Concept Development #hyperisland #innovation #idea generation 

Ideation and Concept Development is a process for groups to work creatively and collaboratively to generate creative ideas. It’s a general approach that can be adapted and customized to suit many different scenarios. It includes basic principles for idea generation and several steps for groups to work with. It also includes steps for idea selection and development.

Six Thinking Hats

All creative processes benefit from working with others. As a team gets used to one another, you’ll often find that each person tends to occupy a certain role based on their skills and interests. You might have one person who is great at coming up with wild ideas and another who is more analytical and can see potential areas for caution easily. While this is helpful, it can also be creatively energizing to mix these roles up and push people gently out of their usual positions when generating ideas or working on something creatively. 

In this creative activity, invite participants to see the current challenge or project from one of six perspectives before then swapping. By imposing a ruleset to how we think and approach a project, we can unearth things we might otherwise have missed and challenge our assumptions too. 

The Six Thinking Hats #creative thinking #meeting facilitation #problem solving #issue resolution #idea generation #conflict resolution 

The Six Thinking Hats are used by individuals and groups to separate out conflicting styles of thinking. They enable and encourage a group of people to think constructively together in exploring and implementing change, rather than using argument to fight over who is right and who is wrong.

Over to you

Being creative makes us happy and more productive. We hope that with these creativity exercises and creative games, you and your team can be more creative at work and find new ways of thinking, whatever your organisation or role.

Want to learn more about how to improve your creative thinking skills and explore creativity in more depth? Our guide on improving and using creative thinking skills at work is a great place to start! 

Have some thoughts on how else you might bring creativity into the workplace or want to share some creative activities you’ve used? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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